Bachelor of Rural Medicine and Surgery (BRMS)

To address the shortage of doctors in rural areas, the health ministry had come up last year with a new course called Bachelor of Rural Medicine and Surgery (BRMS). The idea was to offer a three-and-half-year course without specialization.

  • It was supposed that the students would not have to sit for a medical entrance examination, instead they would be selected from primary health centres on the basis of marks obtained in Class XII with Physics, Chemistry and Biology as subjects.
  • The idea had become controversial and now the same idea has received backing of a powerful high level expert group on universal health coverage set up by Planning Commission.
  • The latest report of the panel says that as a career progression incentive, they should be promoted to the level of public health officers after 10 years of service.
  • The report says that by 2022, India should actually have BRMS colleges in all districts with populations of over 5 lakh.
  • The course should focus on “high quality of competence in preventive, promotive and rehabilitative services required for rural populations with focus on primary health care.”It also recommended that it should be mandated through legislation that a BRMS graduate is licensed to serve only in specific notified areas in the government health system.

Is it a Mini MBBS?

The panel makes it clear that the BRMS course is not a mini-MBBS but rather a unique training programme aimed at the basic health care needs of its target population. The under-served vulnerable populations in rural, tribal and hilly areas are the Target Population. In 2006, only 26% of doctors in India resided in rural areas, serving 72% of India’s population.

The panel report also recommends to make the public health system stronger in India. It said that India should increase its public spending on purchasing drugs by five times in order to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure of the common man. Currently, the public health system in India spends about Rs 6,000 crore (0.1% of GDP) for procuring drugs. The panel recommended a five-fold rise in medicine purchase by the public health system at Rs 30,000 crore, roughly half a per cent of GDP. P 11 ‘Village health guides almost gone’.

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